Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his associates have begun to actively explore a possible presidential campaign, which would upend the Democratic field and deliver a direct threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton, several people who have spoken to Mr. Biden or his closest advisers say.

Mr. Biden’s advisers have started to reach out to Democratic leaders and donors who have not yet committed to Mrs. Clinton or who have grown concerned about what they see as her increasingly visible vulnerabilities as a candidate…

One longtime Biden supporter said the vice president had been deeply moved by his son’s desire for him to run.

“He was so close to Beau and it was so heartbreaking that, frankly, I thought initially he wouldn’t have the heart,” the supporter, Michael Thornton, a Boston lawyer, said in an interview. “But I’ve had indications that maybe he does want to — and ‘that’s what Beau would have wanted me to do.’”

Aides close to Hillary Clinton are getting increasingly nervous that Vice President Joe Biden may throw his hat into the 2016 presidential race later this summer, Democratic sources told Fox News.

The sources said that eyebrows were raised recently at Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn when Biden’s chief of staff at the White House, Steve Ricchetti, was spotted having breakfast recently with major Democratic donor Louis Susman, a Clinton friend who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Obama.

After the breakfast, sources said word spread quickly inside Clinton’s camp that Biden’s team appeared to be sounding out top fundraisers about whether the vice president can raise the necessary cash to compete with the Democratic front-runner at this late date.

Joe Biden is leaning strongly toward a 2016 presidential bid, a source close to the vice president tells the Herald — news that is spurring excitement among top Democrats in Massachusetts and early voting states who are worried about front-runner Hillary Clinton’s hefty political baggage and sagging poll numbers.

An adviser close to Biden, who is familiar with the vice president’s exploration process, told the Herald that Biden will “more likely than not” jump into the 2016 race. A request for comment from Biden’s White House office was not returned yesterday…

The efforts are being met with support from those who say Biden could energize the Democratic primary, providing a formidable opponent to Clinton. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 58 percent of voters — and a whopping 87 percent of Democrats — found Biden honest and trustworthy, compared to 37 percent and 76 percent, 
respectively, for Clinton.

“What is happening with the emails and all the other issues around Hillary’s campaign has not been helpful to her,” said former Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman Phil Johnston. “If anyone is in the position to beat her for the nomination, I would say it’s Joe.”

When Beau realized he was not going to make it, he asked his father if he had a minute to sit down and talk…

“Dad, I know you don’t give a damn about money,” Beau told him, dismissing the idea that his father would take some sort of cushy job after the vice presidency to cash in.

Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.

Hunter also pushed his father, telling him, “Dad, it’s who you are.”

A senior adviser to Joe Biden’s late son Beau is joining the Draft Biden Super PAC to lay the financial groundwork for a potential presidential bid – a key hurdle for the sitting vice president if he hopes to take on Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary.

Josh Alcorn, finance director and later senior adviser to Beau Biden, raised $1.2 million in six months in 2013 to fund Beau Biden’s potential bid for governor of Delaware. Alcorn moved back to Delaware from Washington, D.C., to work on Beau Biden’s bid after managing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s vast national network of donors as finance director. Alcorn traveled consistently with Beau and served as a political confidante…

While Alcorn’s move isn’t formally sanctioned by the Biden family, his new role lends legitimacy to a group that’s built an email list of 170,000 potential Biden supporters. And amid news reports that a dying Beau urged his father to run for president, it’s one of the first concrete and public steps from a member of the son’s inner circle encouraging a challenge to Hillary Clinton.

Alcorn’s goal is to use his perch at Draft Biden – a small movement that’s persisted mostly online and hasn’t raised significant money or held large events – to gauge interest from major donors in Joe Biden and Beau Biden’s inner circles in supporting a bid. The super PAC can raise unlimited funds, and could allow top donors to send a message supporting Biden’s potential run.

A Biden bid would unquestionably upend the Democratic nomination race.

But, should he run, he would have to decide whether to take his former ally and fellow former senator head on and exploit her vulnerabilities, or only pounce if and when Clinton, who has been dogged by scandal, veers into trouble on the campaign trail…

“There’s a lot of people who are critical of secretary Clinton, from Senator Sanders to Fox News, and I don’t know that the vice president needs to add his voice in order to be a viable candidate.”

Biden, Goldstein said, might “run more on who he is and what he’s done,” citing his 36 years in the Senate, experience as one of the most engaged vice presidents in a century, and a focus on issues ranging from protecting the middle class to the crises in Iraq and Ukraine.

I have some bad news for the media: Joe Biden is not running for president

Biden is in some ways a skilled politician, but he happens to be abysmal at running for president. The first time he ran, in 1988, his campaign imploded when it was discovered he had plagiarized parts of some of his speeches from British politician Neil Kinnock — and then other instances of plagiarism, political and academic, emerged as well. (It’s an interesting historical footnote that when a video juxtaposing Biden’s and Kinnock’s speeches was discovered to have been produced by Dukakis campaign chief John Sasso, the press found the tactic so scandalous that Sasso was forced to resign. It was a more innocent age, I suppose.)

But it wasn’t like Biden was headed for the nomination in 1988 anyway. He was at best in the middle of a very large pack. When he ran again 20 years later, he did even worse. He came in a weak fifth in Iowa, garnering just under one percent of the vote, and promptly pulled out of the race. It seemed that voters’ response to him tended to run along the lines of, “He seems like a nice guy, but I’m voting for someone else.”

Biden’s time as vice president hasn’t been particularly notable, other than to reinforce his image as a lovable yet unpredictable guy, sort of a nutty uncle who’s a blast to have around because of all the crazy things he says, but to whom you wouldn’t necessarily want to trust the nuclear codes (and The Onion’s version of Biden may be the single best comedic character the Obama years have produced).

Whatever the shortcomings of Mrs Clinton’s campaign, a Biden bid for the White House would also face serious obstacles. He has run twice before, having unsuccessfully sought the nomination first in 1988 and then in 2008. He is currently polling only in the low double-digits, lagging behind Mr Sanders, and more than 45 points behind Mrs Clinton, according to an average of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics…

Mrs Clinton revealed last month that her campaign had raised more than $47m in its first three-and-a-half months — a record.

“I’ve known Joe Biden for many years and I’m very fond of Joe,” Mr Sanders said on Sunday. “But I think the American people, who are seeing the middle class of this country disappearing, massive levels of income and wealth inequality, a campaign finance system which is literally corrupt now, owned by billionaires . . . want to go beyond conventional establishment politics.”

Biden has a lot of ground to make up in the polls. Not only does he trail Clinton, in some cases by more than 40 percentage points, but he is usually behind Bernie Sanders too. The big question is whether his poor poll numbers are driven by the assumption he won’t run and would therefore improve if he took concrete steps toward launching a campaign. On the Republican side, Donald Trump was polling in the low single digits when the conventional wisdom was that he wasn’t going to run. His numbers certainly got better once he actually jumped in the race.

A Biden campaign would put President Obama in an awkward situation. Incumbent vice presidents running for the White House can usually count on at least tacit support from the sitting president during the primaries. But Clinton is an Obama administration veteran in her own right who passed up a chance to divide the Democratic Party with a convention fight after narrowly losing the 2008 nomination to Obama. Is Obama really going to deny Hillary a second time?

The problem for Biden is that under this “The Party Decides” view, the Democratic Party has already decided in favor of Clinton. As measured by her level of endorsements, Clinton has more support at this stage of the primary campaign than any Democrat in the modern era.1

Rank-and-file Democratic voters love Clinton too. Her favorability ratings within her party range from 75 percent to 85 percent, depending on the poll, which are among the highest intraparty ratings ever for a non-incumbent candidate. (Most of the recent slippage in her ratings has come from independent voters instead of Democrats.)…

As Lizza intimates, the demographics don’t work in Biden’s favor. In a primary electorate that’s 55 percent to 60 percent female, he’d deny Democrats the opportunity to nominate a woman for the first time. And while Clinton isn’t new to the political scene, Biden is five years older than her.

Nor is it apparent what message Biden would campaign on, since he and Clinton have extremely similar policy positions and were both members of President Obama’s administration. Biden isn’t a natural fit for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s constituency either. Instead, when he and Clinton were in the Senate together, Biden usually rated as being slightly more conservative than Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton’s allies do not hide their annoyance at the implication by Mr. Biden’s advisers and supporters that she is vulnerable, and ripe for a challenge from the vice president…

Having Mr. Biden as an opponent could help Mrs. Clinton’s campaign in its efforts to shed the perception of inevitability that hurt her with Iowa caucusgoers in the 2008 contest. Back then, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Biden sparred on the debate stage before Mr. Biden withdrew from the race after receiving less than 1 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses.

Going up against Mr. Biden again in the first Democratic debate in October could help Mrs. Clinton hone her skills and appear to be working for the nomination, said Steve Elmendorf, a veteran Democratic strategist. “You’re a better general election candidate if you have competition,” he said. “The vice president would be a formidable opponent.”

The Clinton campaign remains upbeat, describing her as a “fighter” for everyday Americans whose resilience in the face of years of Republican attacks is an important asset…

One labor leader who listened to Mrs. Clinton make a pitch for the AFL-CIO’s endorsement at a closed-door session last week came away unimpressed. RoseAnn DeMoro, a member of the labor federation’s executive council, said Mrs. Clinton didn’t take a position on the trade deal, which many union leaders oppose.

“If I were to characterize her, she’s extremely cautious,” Ms. DeMoro said in an interview after Mrs. Clinton’s appearance. “It’s sad because as a woman, I think she’s unfairly judged. On the other hand, she’s become so cautious that I actually don’t know what she thinks. I don’t know what she believes. I know what she says, but I don’t know what she believes.”

For Joe Biden, Beau’s long, valiant, futile struggle with brain cancer hammered home in brutal fashion the truth of the vice president’s observation about the unknowability of the future. Beau’s plea has had a profound effect on his father’s thinking—and, always as important when it comes to Joe Biden, his feeling—about the decision before him. That his younger son, Hunter, holds the same view as his late brother matters greatly to Biden, too. (Where his wife, Jill, stands remains a mystery even to family friends.) But equally significant, according to several people close to Biden, is his mounting sense of dismay about the Clintons: over their controversial politico-philanthropic endeavors, their enthusiastic money-making activities, and their le parti est la nôtre, nous sommes le parti sense of entitlement…

[Biden running] would radically exacerbate an already punishing set of media dynamics for Clinton. Whereas everything she does is viewed by much of the press corps through a prism of suspicion and cynicism, Biden is seen through precisely the opposite sort of lens. Between his underdog status, warm relationships with countless national reporters and pundits, and the irresistible narrative of a father running to fulfill his cancer-stricken son’s deathbed wish, the vice president would be all but guaranteed many weeks, if not months, of soft, forgiving, at times gushing coverage…

[W]ith Biden in the race, the Democratic establishment would have a viable alternative. The absence of a plausible fallback option has been no small part of the reason the party’s panjandrums have been laboring to suppress their misgivings about the swirl of controversies around Clinton’s e-mail practices and her family’s foundation. The mere presence of Biden in the mix would free those anxieties to float closer to the surface—perhaps even to bubble over. Remember, even in the absence of any scandal, the establishment’s supposedly rock-solid loyalty to the Clintons crumbled quickly in 2008 with the rise of Barack Obama. Biden is no Obama, but the atmosphere around Clinton today is far more toxic than it was then. If the roof above her seems to be caving in, the establishment will want an exit. Biden would offer one.

One would have thought that Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 would have put to rest the concern over the age of a presidential candidate. Biden is just a couple of years older than Clinton and younger than Senator Bernie Sanders. The extension of life expectancy is one of the most notable features of American life, and a candidate in his early 70s would have a natural appeal to older voters who are most likely to vote. He is also the best one-on-one campaigner in American politics; he excels in eye-to-eye contact. That works magic in places like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Perhaps at a time of corrosive political polarization, the Democratic Party needs someone who is a figure of reassurance, who doesn’t generate the kind of sulfurous animosity that has made our political campaigns into demolition derbies.

Can Biden raise the millions of dollars required to compete? I would bet that his announcement of an exploration would unloose a flood of contributions. Sure, his spontaneity and effusiveness sometimes get the better of him, but his optimism and encyclopedic knowledge of the political terrain in Washington are priceless political assets.

However, there is this one thing, this one nagging question that hovers above Hillary Clinton like a crop duster with a full tank of gas. It’s been there for nearly three decades. It’s always there, won’t go away and seems as if it’s never really fully answered and it is this: Who is she? Really, who is she? 

Nobody wonders who Joe Biden is.

Via RCP.